Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Sparrow's Home

Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar,
O LORD Almighty, my King and my God.
Recently someone asked me about what it felt like to be pregnant. Quickly the images flashed back upon me -- the thrill, the waves of seasickness, the sudden fullness, the heat in my body, the thoughts about what I couldn't yet see, the fears about what was to come. Why did I always say being pregnancy was an awesome and wonderful experience? But then I remembered the rest of it -- the single most important lesson in my life. It was during pregancy that I discovered that it is God is creating heaven on earth and that He loves me tenderly.

I wanted to be a good mother, but the task seemed more than daunting to me -- it seemed impossible. I didn't even know where to begin. Even before I became pregnant I had dreams about failing at motherhood. In the long swirling tales that are our nightmares, I dreamt that I had forgotten to feed the baby or that I had put him in my apron pocket for safe keeping only to shake him out when I threw the apron into the laundry! "How are you still alive?" I'd cry in the anguish of my dream, "I can't remember ever feeding you!" I was aware -- too aware of my frailty.

But as I began to pray for the child that was growing within me, I found myself whispering to God my fears, my hopes and my dreams. Strange and wonderful things began to happen to me as my belly grew and I felt the baby fluttering within. A vision formed in my mind and heart about happy family life. At first it was just a single picture. There was a table and around it sat children of different ages. They were talking, eyes twinkling with mischief and life, laughing the many-toned laughter of children and eating with elbows on the table. That's all.

But for that initial vision, my heart and spirit yearned.

And so, I worked at it, the way a painter works at his canvas, the way a gardener cultivates her flowerbed. My first thought in the morning, my last whispered prayer as I closed my eyes. God had given me a little glimpse of heaven and I wanted to see it in my own house.

How surprising to discover that "my" vision, was God's purpose. During pregnancy He seemed so attentive to my prayers and my trust in Him grew vibrant. As I brought my fears and concerns to Him, He answered with the spiritual comfort that defies description and with very real help. I clung to scriptures that spoke of God's attitude toward motherhood and babies. Oddly the book of Job brought me great comfort. Isn't it odd that in the midst of Job's suffering, God shows Job so much about Himself -- about His beauty, His creativity, His sovereignty, His strength and wisdom. The book of Job describes the ostrich's careless motherhood:

She leaves her eggs on the ground and warms them in the dust;
She forgets that a foot may crush them or that a wild beast may break them.
She treats her young harshly as thought he were not hers,
Her labor is in vain, without concern,
Because God deprived her of wisdom and did not endow her with
understanding. 39:14-17.

But I discovered that God promised to give me wisdom when I read James 1: 5 "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." I came to see that God was the source and author of my child's life and that He wanted to work hand in hand with me to bring this child to birth. He meant all along to give me the wisdom, the inspiration, the courage to bring this child forth into life. I came to understand that He was "wooing me to a spacious place" to creating the sort of home where in His presence,with His help I could mother my children.

When, in those nine months, I was weary or afraid, I remembered the story of Jacob returning home with his family and flocks. When Esau asks that they travel together, Jacob protests, claiming that he cannot drive the young mothers and babies, or those with young too hard or they will perish. Now I know Jacob was afraid of Esau for good reason and he was using the condition of his flock to keep himself comfortable, yet if it weren't true that a good shepherd would care thus for his flock, it would not have worked as a viable excuse. And it is what a good shepherd must do. But our God is the good shepherd and He will gently lead those who are caring for children. Through sickness and fear and struggle, He has gently led me to care for these children.

Not only was He creating the child within me, but the struggles and exhilarations of pregnancy were preparing me for motherhood. There was an amazing sort of inner growth that was happening as I gave myself body, heart and soul to the bearing of my child. As I endured those symptoms and coped, sometimes in dismay, with the discomfort of my distorted body something more than the baby was growing within. Born with my child was the most tender, most terribly fierce, most astonishing love ever felt. And it was there -big enough but not full grown- the moment I saw his face.

During the tough physical strain of pregnancy, while I was yearning and hoping, the wisdom God promised had been dropped deeply in me. How did I know that I must not give my newborn son formula with milk in it? I remember an inner shudder with the thought of giving Eric milk-based formula. Certainly God kept my hand -- despite mocking and pressure from people -- from giving this child dairy-based formula that we now know would have probably killed him. (Eric has a life-threatening allergy to cow's milk products as we discovered later.)

Now when I am facing difficult challenges at home or at work, in relationships or in my writing, I remember what pregnancy taught me. Somewhere along the way, I came to understand that it is every Christian's lifelong task to create types of heaven on earth. How can I do this when life hurts and hell is replicated around me with a firey glee? I look back on those amazing and tender times when I came to know God's care for me, when I saw His vision for my home life. I remember what it felt like for the first time and in a certain, deliberate way to cooperate with God. I recall how we worked together to create something that He had willed and designed-- someone he had dreamed of and had loved in the most poignant and sacrificial way.
Colossians 2 reminds me that "as you received Christ Jesus, so now walk in Him." And though I probably have the theology wrong, I like to remember those intial steps in my faith, the blossoming of trust, the establishme of prayerful reliance, the first experiences of waiting on God and hoping in Him, the freedom of keeping my mind and heart open to His wisdom and inspiration. And I try again to walk in that same trusting way.


  1. Lovely blog. Well written and deliciously worded.

  2. thanks so much for writing about this. I love your vision of life as beautiful and purposeful. It is so inspiring. It is so true that hell is all around us but that we can create beauty through God's love in our lives.